Bay St. Healer: Dr. Gordon Warme
- Release Date 2022
- Running Time 62 minutes
- Closed Captions Yes
- Availability Canada, USA
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“It's stupid to pathologize life,” says Toronto psychiatrist Dr. Gordon Warme (1932-2023). Over the decades listening to patient problems, he is unsure that their issues are caused by their faulty brains.
Bay St. Healer is the newest film by director-producer Jonathan Balazs examining the life and work of Dr. Warme. Against the backdrop of Bay Street, Toronto's financial center, the title playfully hints at those who may have sought Dr. Warme's assistance. During the last stage of his life and while filming the documentary, Dr. Warme resided on this street. From his vantage point overlooking the city, he contemplates his complicated and at times controversial career.
Supported with quotes from his writings as a guide, Balazs crafts a hypnotizing narrative through revealing interviews, expressive animations and a contemplative bevy of archival media. With unconventional insights, Dr. Warme reveals himself to be a participant in a vital cultural ritual, “one of countless rituals that give relief to humans...the most culture-bound of creatures.”
Whether brushing shoulders with 1950s Hollywood royalty at the Banff Springs Hotel; serving as a key investigator in a Canadian tragedy or insisting that he doesn't rely on cliches or give advice, Dr. Warme's incisive musings are a compliment to Balazs' ruminative style. With 50 years of psychiatric practice behind him, the late Dr. Warme was undeniably a cultural artifact, someone whose insights are worth preserving.
Director and Producer: Jonathan Balazs
I first discovered Dr. Warme's books through instructor David Reville who taught a course called History of Madness offered by the School of Disability Studies at what is now Toronto Metropolitan University. I borrowed a couple of Dr. Warme's books from the Toronto Public Library and was simultaneously captivated and horrified by the views expressed in his writing, especially that as a doctor, he decried the medical evidence for any biological mechanism behind mental illnesses. While still trying to wrap my head around these ideas, I graduated from university and expanded my short film “Mars Project” where Dr. Warme was featured. After a particularly tense Grand Rounds presentation of this film for doctors in western Canada, I was struck by how dismissive they were of him; a psychiatrist even asked why the mental health institution in Toronto where he worked even kept him around. This was a defining moment that inspired me to create “Bay St. Healer”. The way I understood it: Dr. Warme started out as an obedient and conscientious doctor whom, over the decades, became increasingly unconvinced of psychiatric expertise. Over the subsequent years, I would correspond with the doctor seeking his insight for new work and building up my courage to approach him about making a documentary featuring his professional life. Although the production was nearly thwarted by lock-downs and some health concerns, these difficulties ultimately made the film an iconic product of its time.
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